Saturday July 4, 2020



August 02

Early Ragweed in NJ/NY

First Ragweed of Season Sighted in New Jersey and New York

Earlier-than-usual sighting means ragweed allergy sufferers experience longer exposure time

August 09, 2011

Members of the media can contact Leonard Bielory, M.D., a specialist in allergy and immunology with the Department of Environmental Sciences at the RutgersSchool of Environmental and Biological Sciences, by cell phone at 973-912-9817, or by email at

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Ragweed season has begun in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area with the first sighting today by Dr. Leonard Bielory, a specialist in allergy and immunology with the Department of Environmental Sciences at the RutgersSchool of Environmental and Biological Sciences.

Bielory, certified by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology National Allergy Bureau as a pollen counting station, says that sightings of ragweed generally occur towards the end of the third week of August.

“The earlier sighting is consistent with our findings that climate change may be affecting pollen release and earlier development of allergies,” said Bielory.

Bielory is principal investigator on a long-term U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant to study the potential impact of climate change on the human population, especially allergic airway disease, and what to expect over the course of the next 50 years.

A changing climate means allergy-causing ragweed pollen has a longer season that extends further north than it did just 16 years ago. In New Jersey, the season appears to have longer exposure time due to earlier pollination and longer release days.

Three out of four Americans who have allergies are allergic to ragweed pollen, which causes hay fever. Allergies associated with ragweed pollen costs about $21 billion a year in the United States.

“Allergies that have been minor in the past are going to increase and become more of a clinical problem that may also impact patients with asthma,” said Bielory.

Three out of four Americans who have allergies are allergic to ragweed pollen, which causes hay fever. Allergies associated with ragweed pollen costs about $21 billion a year in the U.S

According to a study published in February in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, experts found that ragweed pollen season lasted as much as 27 days longer in 2009 than it did in 1995 with increasing range the further north one got. The result is a more dramatic change in the length of the pollen season, says Bielory.

At one time this was hypothesized and modeled as a possibility, “but it is a reality; this is affecting patients now,” said Bielory.

As global average temperatures have warmed, the first frost has been delayed, especially at higher latitudes, which means a longer season for ragweed.“Because warming is greater at these high latitudes, the length of the season has been more pronounced,” he added.

The report states that the ragweed season actually shrank by four days between 1995 and 2009 in Texas while further north it was noted to be 11 days longer in Nebraska; 16 days longer in Minnesota; and 27 days longer in Saskatchewan, Canada.

In New Jersey, the season appears to have grown longer over the past 20 years, but not as prolonged as the differences noted in Canada. The shift is likely to have an impact on the diagnosis of allergies coinciding with the flu season.

“Primary care physicians may under-diagnose and under-treat allergies since they’d be unfamiliar with the change in the allergy season and may require the assistance of an allergist to confirm the diagnosis and prescribe the most effective treatment for their patients.

Ragweed is not the only pollen season affected by changing climate. The wide-ranging EPA study will also be evaluating the impact on tree and grass pollen seasons in the early and late spring.


August 01

Allergic to Ragweed?

Rutgers Studying Link Between Pollen Release And Climate Change

Ragweed pollen has hit the air a few weeks earlier then usual. It’s a pattern that’s been developing over the past 20 years, says Dr. Leonard Bielory, a Rutgers researcher who is studying the link to climate change.

“We actually note that there’s been a clear trend changing in the release of pollen between that period of time,” said Bielory.

He says he won’t discuss the politics or potential causes of climate change, but notes that with more frost-free days, pollen release is starting earlier. That means mild allergy symptoms will likely become moderate and moderate could become more severe.

With an EPA grant, Bielory will study the anticipated pollen release changes over the next 50 years.

Audio File:

SourceL CBS New York

July 23

Tips for the heat

Tips for Asthma Sufferers in Summer Heat

High temperatures, thick humidity and increased ozone pose a higher health risk to people with asthma. 

We're on day three of stifling heat and high humidity with a long summer of heat ahead.

Those with asthma are at risk of medical compliations from an increase of heat and humity, according to a Rutgers University professor.

Leonard Bielory, an allergy specialist at the Rutgers Center of Environmental Prediction at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, offered the following tips for asthma sufferers:

  • Minimize strenuous outdoor physical activity in excessive heat and humidity, particularly sports that require short bursts of energy, like baseball, football and gymnastics.
  • Take prescribed medications by your allergist or immunologist at recommended doses.
  • Use air conditioning in the home and car to stay cool and dry.
  • Air out tents, tree houses or other confined quarters where mold spores could trigger an asthma attack.
  • Shower and wash your hair every night before going to bed to remove allergens from your hair and avoid them getting on your pillow.

“More than 90% of pediatric and half of adult asthma attacks are caused by environmental allergens and irritants such as smoke, pollen and animal dander,” Bielory said, in a news release.

Allergy and asthmas suffers will have to stick out the weather for one more day this week, as a heat advisory continues through Friday, with temperatures expected to go as high as 94 degrees, according to the National Weather Service forecast.

Showers and thunderstorms are expected Friday afternoon and evening, leading to a cooler, sunnier Saturday, with a high around 87, the forecast said.


June 29

Blasting Summer Heat

Summer starts with heat blast

Area residents shouldn't expect brutal summer

CENTRAL JERSEY — While the area is braving the highest temperatures of the year, the heat is not an indication of how hot this summer will be, State Climatologist David Robinson said.

Temperatures are expected to reach the upper 90s today, threatening records. The humidity has led to heat indexes between 100 and 105 degrees. Heat advisories have been issued throughout Middlesex and Somerset counties, and residents are being advised to go to cooling centers, such as public libraries and community centers.

Robinson, a professor at Rutgers University, said the heat wave will cause high temperatures in the afternoon and lead to warm nights, which could make it more difficult to find relief.

“What also worries me is that (it) won’t give the body a chance to recover,” he said. “That only makes the next day worse.”

The heat should subside by the weekend, with average temperatures at least through the middle of next week, Robinson said. However, the high temperatures are not a sign of how hot the summer will be, he added. Despite the heat wave, June could be the first month with below-average temperatures in nearly a year and a half.

“I would say right now that the way the atmosphere has aligned itself thus far, this summer we’re not in for one of those hottest summers,” Robinson said.

Over the next few days, residents will be keeping cool by staying home and visiting cooling centers.

The Bernardsville Office of Emergency Management opened a public cooling center at the Bernardsville Public Library with a community emergency response team from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. today and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Somerset County’s Office on Aging and Disability Services advised people to cool off at the senior citizen centers, which are open from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Somerset County Library System branches in Bridgewater, Bound Brook, Hillsborough, North Plainfield, Somerville, Peapack-Gladstone, Warren and Watchung will serve as cooling centers for residents, as will the Mary Jacobs Library in Rocky Hill.

South River’s Cruise Night, which was supposed to be conducted today, was canceled because of excessive heat.

While the Old Bridge Public Library is not an official cooling center, people recognize the library as a place to go to for relief from the weather, said library director Sara Hansen.

“The library is open for people to come in and use our services and get cooled off,” Hansen said. “We welcome everybody to come over.”

Old Bridge residents have stopped by the library to escape the heat. One resident called in, saying she planned to stop by because her house does not have air conditioning, Hansen said.

Carol Wertheim of Bridgewater said she normally takes walks into Somerville during the day but will stay indoors over the next few days.

“I’m probably not going to walk as much,” she said. “You have to stay out of the heat as much as you can.”

Army Staff Sgts. Steven Lanier and Dayton Trinkle, who work at the recruiting station in Somerville, said the heat training they received before serving in Iraq should help. Trinkle said he also had two jugs of water to keep himself hydrated.

Despite the high temperatures, Robinson said, residents can find relief in that the heat wave will pass after two or three days.

“We can already see the end of it, unlike some of the heat we had last summer and for a lot of summers of late,” he said. “This is going to be a relatively short-lived, intense heat.”

Residents are advised to stay indoors with air conditioning and drink a lot of water. Children and pets should not be left in a car.

The heat, combined with humidity and high ozone levels, could pose health risks for those with chronic asthma, said Leonard Bielory, an allergy specialist with the Center for Environmental Prediction at Rutgers’ School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.

People with asthma are advised to avoid outdoor physical activity, take prescribed medications, use air conditioning and shower and wash their hair every night before going to bed to remove allergens, Bielory said.


June 27

Life threatening allergies

It was a vacation Ely Weitz will always remember. In August 2003, he, his wife, and their two daughters were guests at a lakeside cottage in Ottawa, Canada. The setting was postcard perfect and the family was having a wonderful time, until Mr. Weitz took out the garbage.

“There were potted plants and gorgeous flowers along the way—and there was also a wasp, which proceeded to sting the back of my right knee,” he says. “Within a half hour, I was red and swollen from the top of my scalp to the bottom of my legs.”

Alarmed and experiencing an excruciating blend of pain and itchiness, Mr. Weitz called a friend back in New Jersey: Dr. Leonard Bielory, who also is director of the STARx Allergy and Asthma and an allergist at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. “First Dr. Bielory asked if I was having any trouble breathing, which I wasn’t,” says Mr. Weitz. “A search in the medicine cabinet for antihistamines turned up nothing, and he strongly recommended I go to an emergency room.”

Mr. Weitz and his family went to the hospital, filled out the required forms, and then, as a nurse was taking the Springfield man’s blood pressure and temperature, he collapsed. The next thing Mr. Weitz recalls, he was on a stretcher and being given steroids intravenously, surrounded by his family and an influx of doctors and nurses. “It was the end of wasp season, so they’d seen allergic reactions in the E.R., but apparently none as severe as mine,” says Mr. Weitz. Two hours later, he left the hospital with a prescription for antihistamines and an EpiPen®, injectable epinephrine used as rescue medicine during severe allergic reactions known as anaphylaxis. When he returned to New Jersey, skin tests showed he was allergic to wasps and hornets.

Today, Mr.Weitz , who had no known allergies, carries his EpiPen® wherever he goes and has once-weekly immunotherapy injections. Dr. Bielory is now not only a friend, but his allergist. “My experience wasn’t a fluke—a wasp’s or a hornet’s sting could be life threatening to me,” says Mr. Weitz, a professor at Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business.

The Body’s Misguided Response

Chances are that everyone knows an allergy sufferer. More than 50 million Americans have some type of allergy, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI). Seasonal allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, affects about 20 percent of people in the United States. Although the sneezing, runny nose, itchy throat, and watery eyes brought on by pollen can cause misery, hay fever itself is very seldom life threatening. Rarer, but potentially more deadly, are allergies to such things as insect stings, foods, medications, and latex.

An allergic reaction is the immune system’s response to any substance it considers harmful. In some scenarios, such as when a virus invades the body, the defensive action of the immune system is welcome. But in the case of an allergic reaction, the immune system mistakenly targets an otherwise harmless substance, known as the allergen. Upon contact with the allergen, the immune system’s “attack” unfolds like this: The body produces an antibody, immunoglobulin gamma E (IgE), which signals mast cells to release certain chemicals, namely, histamine. Histamine produces the symptoms associated with allergies: swelling, itching, nausea, diarrhea, wheezing, and hives, for example. Usually, the symptoms are contained to the area of the body where the histamine is released.

However, severe allergic (anaphylactic) reactions are systemic, which means they affect the whole body. In addition to producing intense allergy symptoms, massive bursts of histamine can cause blood vessels to dilate and dramatically lower blood pressure. The throat can quickly swell and block the airway.

Without immediate medical action, someone experiencing an anaphylactic reaction could die within minutes. Most often, the initial action is an injection of epinephrine.

“Epinephrine is a hormone that counters some of the effects of anaphylaxis. It causes the heart to pump faster, relaxes the airways, and tightens blood vessels,” explains Dr. Bielory. Pre-measured doses of epinephrine are carried by allergy patients in injection form, known commonly as the EpiPen®. Even children can be taught when and how to use the drug, which is carried in a case and, when needed, injected into the thigh. However, says the doctor, patients who’ve had a severe allergic reaction need more than a dose of epinephrine. “Epinephrine wears off in about 15 minutes, but the effects of anaphylaxis could go on for much longer,” he says. “After using the EpiPen®, the patient should go immediately to an emergency room for evaluation and, if needed, follow-up care.”

Most people don’t think twice about a sprinkle of peanuts on an ice cream sundae or can take a dose of penicillin without worry. While everyone avoids stinging insects, most of the time removing the stinger and applying a baking soda paste can bring relief. And yet, for some people, what seems harmless (even helpful or pleasurable) can be hazardous.

A Danger for Some

Ask Loretta McConeghy, who is allergic to penicillin. “When I was a child, my mother noticed that my tongue and earlobes swelled after I was given a shot of penicillin,” says Ms. McConeghy, who has a complex medical history and is also allergic to other medicines and peanuts. “The doctor told her that I should not be given penicillin or any related drugs. However, once when I was in my 20s, a doctor mistakenly prescribed a drug for me in the penicillin family, and that sent me into anaphylaxis. Vancomycin, which is very strong and given to me intravenously, is about the only antibiotic I don’t react to.” So cautious is Ms. McConeghy, that anytime a physician prescribes medicine for her, she turns to Dr. Bielory. “I’m leery about any medicine given to me by another doctor, so I show it to Dr. Bielory before taking it,” says Ms. McConeghy, who also works for the allergist as an outreach coordinator at University Hospital. “He’s my guardian angel.”

“While many medications can produce unpleasant side effects, such as gastrointestinal upset or drowsiness, penicillin is the most common drug to which people are truly allergic,” says Dr. Bielory. About 400 people die from anaphylactic reactions to penicillin each year. Penicillin is one of the beta lactam antibiotics; others in this class include amoxicillin and ampicillin.

Once a doctor is aware that a patient has had an allergic reaction to a medicine, keeping a record of the allergy and finding a suitable alternative are two preventive steps. The patient also is counseled to wear an emergency bracelet or necklace stating the allergy. However, what about the herbal remedies that so many people take, often without their doctor’s knowledge? With at least one popular alternative therapy, echinacea, which is used to ward off colds or reduce cold symptoms, Dr. Bielory advises caution. He cites an Australian study that found more than 10 percent of 483 adverse drug reactions involved echinacea, with 26 of those reactions being true allergies.

Food allergies are often in the newspaper headlines, and apparently with good cause. According to a study released this year by the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, about 1 in 25 Americans are affected by one or more food allergies, and surprisingly, seafood allergies are about twice as common as nut allergies. It’s the proteins in nuts, shellfish, eggs, soy, and other foods that are the allergens.

Avoiding peanut butter or shrimp scampi might not be enough for people with those food allergies, especially when dining out. “At a restaurant, food might be cooked in peanut oil,” says Dr. Bielory. “Or, a pan used to cook a dish with shellfish might be used again to cook trout. The problem comes when shellfish proteins remain on the surface of the pan.” It’s wise for people with food allergies to ask how an item is prepared or, to be extremely cautious, not eat at seafood restaurants. Carefully reading food labels and educating allergic children about what they can’t eat are two other proactive measures that can be taken.

Foods can often be avoided, but stinging insects, especially in the summer and early fall, can live up to their reputation as pests. For a small but significant number of people, they can even be fatal. The venom of honeybees, wasps, yellow jackets, hornets, and fire ants proves deadly to about 200 Americans each year.

“Insect stings have been plaguing humans at least since the times of ancient Egypt, according to hieroglyphics,” says Dr. Bielory. “Common sense comes into play here—avoid wearing fragrances or brightly colored clothes, both which attracts stinging insects. Also, don’t go barefoot outdoors. Yellow jackets, for example, burrow underground.”

There’s another preventive measure people with insect sting allergies can take—immunotherapy, more commonly known as allergy shots. Over time, the weekly shots enable the patient’s immune system to develop a tolerance to the venom. While immunotherapy can be quite effective, Dr. Bielory says that the protective effect does not take hold for several months. “After the first shot, the patient is far from being protected. It takes between six months to one year to educate the immune system,” he notes. “Even then, immunotherapy is a year-round, lifetime commitment.”

Testing for Allergies: If insect stings are one of the oldest allergies known to mankind, then latex allergies are among the newest. Latex has been manufactured from rubber plants and used without problems for many decades. However, the emergence of AIDS in the mid-1980s led to an overwhelming demand for protective latex gloves in the medical and dental fields. The manufacturing process changed, resulting in gloves that retained more of the latex protein. Healthcare professionals wore gloves more often, increasing their exposure to latex protein. It’s estimated today that 17 percent of healthcare workers have developed a systemic latex allergy, compared to 6 percent of the general population. As a response to this problem, many hospitals and medical and dental offices substitute vinyl protective gloves or do not purchase powdered latex gloves. In the latter case, the latex proteins bind with the powder, and when the gloves are taken off, the powder particles are dispersed in the air, creating another danger for people with latex allergy.

A person’s symptoms can lead a physician to suspect an allergy, but only with testing can a diagnosis be made. The most common test used by allergists is the skin prick test. Tiny amounts of allergens are individually delivered in the skin on the patient’s inner forearm. After about 15-20 minutes, small, red, raised areas form where there’s been a positive reaction. The allergist can then formulate a treatment plan with the patient.

When an allergy is suspected, the skin test is a far better way to find out than by accident. But for every person who is tested, there are others, like Mr. Weitz, who have never shown signs of an allergy but may be susceptible. That’s why knowing the symptoms of an allergic reaction—mild and severe—could save a life.

Source: Prepared in Cooperation wit the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

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Location: Springfield, NJ
Today's Date: July 04, 2020
Station Director: Leonard Bielory, M.D
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